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Conclusion

Intel Xeon 5600-Series: Can Your PC Use 24 Processors?
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I truly wish I had some older Xeon 5400-class hardware here to add to the mix. There’s a clear jump from the Xeon 5500s to the 5600s—and that’s just an evolutionary step up. Older Harpertown chips would have illustrated the gains inherent to Intel’s Nehalem architecture (and Gelsinger's claims) more poignantly.

Nevertheless, thanks to a new suite of benchmarks and a 5520-based platform that makes comparing LGA 1366-based processors relatively easy, we can clearly see where it makes sense to spring for a 24-thread, dual-socket workstation. Do a little research. Know if the software you’re running is threaded or not. If it is, a pair of Xeon X5680s, specifically, is very likely going to yield better performance than any other 2P configuration from Intel.

There are caveats, as we saw in Adobe’s CS4 suite. Divvying up 4 GB of system memory between 24 logical cores in a 32-bit application is asking for trouble, or at least a massive performance hit. So, make sure you’re running in a 64-bit environment if you want to come anywhere close to taking advantage of this platform’s potential in threaded software.

And just as we harp on the importance of building balanced desktops, the same holds true here. A potent dual-socket workstation should be complemented with plenty of memory and fast storage. In this case, 12 GB of DDR3-1333 and a pair of 160 GB SSDs in RAID 0 did the trick. Naturally, there are also gains to be had from a capable graphics card. And in some applications, your GPU will make all of the difference, while the Xeons have no impact whatsoever.

What we can say definitively is that the Xeon X5680—despite running 133 MHz faster than Intel’s older Xeon W5580—operates more efficiently than its predecessor in threaded software. It’s significantly more complex, what, with its two extra cores and 4 MB of extra L3 cache. But it fits within the same thermal envelope thanks to 32 nm manufacturing, and even manages to use less average power in our LightWave rendering test that the Xeon 5500-series chip.

And although a pair of hexa-core Xeons are much more power-hungry than a single Core i7-980X, the performance they enable gets threaded workloads done faster—fast enough, in fact, to yield a lower average watt-hour rating than the single-socket Core i7.

As for AMD, here’s hoping its SR56x0 and SP5100 chipset components pave the way for renewed competition in the workstation space. It’d be interesting to gauge the speed of the Opteron 6100-series’ 12 physical cores against Intel’s 6C/12T Xeon 5600-series, after all.

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Top Comments
  • 17 Hide
    one-shot , July 26, 2010 6:16 AM
    Or 24 Logical cores, not really Processors.
  • 13 Hide
    wh3resmycar , July 26, 2010 7:03 AM
    Quote:
    So many cpu's in task manager...do all but 1 go unused running a single threaded app? shame intel had to go this route with more cores instead of making single core with hyper-threading work faster. you should really only need 2 logical cpu's and hyper threading accomplishes it with 1.


    i have a feeling you dont understand what the word "workstation" means.
  • 13 Hide
    Tamz_msc , July 26, 2010 6:29 AM
    I was expecting an even better performance from these CPUs.The performance is still limited by the software you use.
Other Comments
  • 17 Hide
    one-shot , July 26, 2010 6:16 AM
    Or 24 Logical cores, not really Processors.
  • 12 Hide
    Zerk , July 26, 2010 6:20 AM
    24 threads, 12 cores.

    A+ Excellent Review.
  • 11 Hide
    enzo matrix , July 26, 2010 6:20 AM
    one-shotOr 24 Logical CPUs, not really Processors.

    Misleading title. I was excited because I assumed intel had finally come out with 12-core server CPUs.
  • 13 Hide
    Tamz_msc , July 26, 2010 6:29 AM
    I was expecting an even better performance from these CPUs.The performance is still limited by the software you use.
  • 0 Hide
    shin0bi272 , July 26, 2010 6:35 AM
    Enzo MatrixMisleading title. I was excited because I assumed intel had finally come out with 12-core server CPUs.

    they could have gone 4x 6 core cpus without HT too.
  • -3 Hide
    cangelini , July 26, 2010 6:45 AM
    Enzo MatrixMisleading title. I was excited because I assumed intel had finally come out with 12-core server CPUs.


    The Xeon 5600-series tops out with 6 cores and 12 threads, yielding 24 logical processors between two sockets. =)
  • 13 Hide
    wh3resmycar , July 26, 2010 7:03 AM
    Quote:
    So many cpu's in task manager...do all but 1 go unused running a single threaded app? shame intel had to go this route with more cores instead of making single core with hyper-threading work faster. you should really only need 2 logical cpu's and hyper threading accomplishes it with 1.


    i have a feeling you dont understand what the word "workstation" means.
  • -4 Hide
    Anonymous , July 26, 2010 7:39 AM
    Hyper threading was kind of cool back in the P4 days, but now I don't see the point. Virtually nothing that >people actually use< has any benefit to see from it.. It just makes for cool screenshots imo..

    I guess what this review says is that, if you want performance for stuff you do at home you should pretty much just get a Nehalem i7 6c with some fast ram. The xeons seems to be behind on everything multimedia, much as expected.
  • 7 Hide
    Otus , July 26, 2010 8:06 AM
    cangeliniThe Xeon 5600-series tops out with 6 cores and 12 threads, yielding 24 logical processors between two sockets. =)

    You should have written "logical processors" or "logical cores" and no one would have argued.
    mheagerNot true. Hyper threading makes it so if one app gets stuck in an endless loop it doesn't suck up all the cpu and freeze the computer.

    The OS can do that even on a single core with no HT. Not to mention the case with many physical cores which non-HT CPUs have nowadays.
  • -2 Hide
    kokin , July 26, 2010 8:08 AM
    mheagerNot true. Hyper threading makes it so if one app gets stuck in an endless loop it doesn't suck up all the cpu and freeze the computer.

    But why should it get stuck in an endless loop with all that computing power?
  • 3 Hide
    mindbreaker , July 26, 2010 9:12 AM
    Since when do the chip makers get to choose not to have their chips tested? Is this a news magazine or isn't it? Test those G34 socket AMD Opterons!

    And guys; chess is still one of the best applications to see the potential of a chip with all threads pegged. Crafty has a benchmark if the Fritz one is not using all the threads. Or you can do things more hands on; just see how much time it requires to get StockFish 1.8 to reach depth 30 in the start position. It is free and the #2 engine in the world.
  • 3 Hide
    jeffunit , July 26, 2010 9:30 AM
    Nice picture of a memory module. Unfortunately, it isn't a picture of the kingston KVR1333D3E9SK3/3G which has ECC, and hence 9 memory chips per side.
  • 4 Hide
    cangelini , July 26, 2010 9:55 AM
    jeffunitNice picture of a memory module. Unfortunately, it isn't a picture of the kingston KVR1333D3E9SK3/3G which has ECC, and hence 9 memory chips per side.


    Blargh. That's what I get for relying on Kingston's stock photography. Photo of one of my actual modules is in there now.
  • 2 Hide
    cangelini , July 26, 2010 9:56 AM
    mindbreakerSince when do the chip makers get to choose not to have their chips tested? Is this a news magazine or isn't it? Test those G34 socket AMD Opterons! And guys; chess is still one of the best applications to see the potential of a chip with all threads pegged. Crafty has a benchmark if the Fritz one is not using all the threads. Or you can do things more hands on; just see how much time it requires to get StockFish 1.8 to reach depth 30 in the start position. It is free and the #2 engine in the world.


    Hoping to get AMD in on the next round, for sure!
  • 0 Hide
    Reynod , July 26, 2010 9:59 AM
    Enjoyed reading this ... thanks Chris.
  • 0 Hide
    amdfangirl , July 26, 2010 11:03 AM
    It's interesting to see it unable to beat the i7-980X at times.

    Just shows not everything is ready for operation more cores.
  • 0 Hide
    Marco925 , July 26, 2010 1:15 PM
    Quote:
    Can Your PC Use 24 Processors?


    I'm still on dual core... :(  so no.
  • -6 Hide
    wotan31 , July 26, 2010 1:34 PM
    I'll bet Windows won't work with this many processors. The crap OS will probably BSOD. Even it boots, Windows is a virtual retard when it comes to thread management - it scales VERY poorly once you go above 4 cpu's. Linux or OSX on the other hand, would definitely benefit from such technology, since both of those have advanced thread management.
  • -5 Hide
    wotan31 , July 26, 2010 1:35 PM
    Tamz_mscI was expecting an even better performance from these CPUs.The performance is still limited by the software you use.

    Correct... if the software you use is Windows. Use a real OS that's based on UNIX and can actually scale properly when you give it serious hardware. Windows is a tinker toy in comparison.
  • 1 Hide
    scook9 , July 26, 2010 1:51 PM
    Pretty epic review :) 
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